Tyrone boss Mickey Harte demands response against UUJ
Tyrone manager Mickey Harte maintains he will be looking for a serious response from his players this weekend when they face University Ulster Jordanstown, after an insipid effort last Sunday in their defeat to Cavan.
Speaking about tomorrow night's fixture in Healy Park (throw-in 7pm), the Red Hands supremo emphasised: "It's very critical for us. Obviously we have to win or we have no hope of qualifying. If we win it depends on score average but the bottom line is that we want to win it and the last game as well."
Having claimed the last five Dr McKenna Cups, Harte has often talked about the need for that momentum ahead of the league campaign, which begins with a must-win game at home against Roscommon on February 5.
Harte introduced a number of new faces last Sunday, including Michael Cassidy, who withdrew with a hamstring strain after the opening quarter, along with midfielder Declan McClure and forward Cahir McCullagh.
In a difficult game for them, Harte felt. "I think they learn from these games, they learn what is required to play at this level. I think they contribute well at times and I think they show their inexperience at times as well.
"That happened to a lot of players. Maybe it's early season syndrome where you are not at the top of your game, you have not enough ball handling skills under pressure and people make some elementary mistakes."
Harte was perhaps being despondent about their chances of qualifying from the group. But against a UUJ team also ravaged by injury, and the Donegal under-21 team to face in Omagh, they can definitely claw back the scoring difference to at least make it through as the best-placed second team.
"We have to go on fighting for the points that are available in our next two games and if we win them we get ourselves into a position where we might be considered for a semi-final," added Harte.
Meanwhile, Martin McHugh, in charge of UUJ, has stated how the job of university management has become harder since he won the Sigerson Cup with IT in 2002.
"It's different preparation from the time I was with Sligo. It's not enjoyable," said McHugh, who is also club manager of Kilcar.
"When I was in Sligo, it was enjoyable because county managers were happy enough to leave their players with you, and they knew they would get him back a better player.
"That's not happening now -counties want their players training with them."
McHugh revealed that UUJ have an injury list of around 15 ahead of the Sigerson Cup, with the latest blow being Antrim's Niall McKeever who came off last weekend against Donegal with an injured ankle.
He admits he might feel slightly nervous of a Tyrone backlash, after a rotten afternoon for the Ulster champions last Sunday in Breffni Park.
"Yeah, fearful enough alright, but we have to take it as it is," he said. "The Donegal game was always going to be a tough one because of the attention during the week of the under-21 team and everything else. It was difficult for us."
"Mickey Harte doesn't like to lose any game in any competition. But we have players back with us. Mark Bradley hopefully will be back for that, and we are hoping that Frank Burns will be back.
"But it is a good test for lads. Playing against Tyrone, it's as good as you are going to get. We want to use this McKenna Cup to give everybody a game and find out where we are at."